Latter-day saints are familiar with the central role of temples in our theology of work that crosses realms. From the earliest time, God’s children were commanded to build temples.
Altars were constructed to turn the hearts of Old Testament believers to the coming of Christ and his eventual Atonement, and modern temples have altars where believers kneel to make sacred covenants in relation to the Atonement.
Veils in ancient temples separated the holy from the profane (common), and modern temples also have veils symbolically separating the temporal world from the spiritual. At the time of Christ’s Atonement and death the veil in the temple was entirely rent, signifying the ability of believers to pass through, and in modern ordinances, believers who have passed through the veil may partake of eternally-binding sealing ordinances to create families.
We are well-adjusted to the truth that within temples, holy work occurs for the salvation of all the children of God.
Paul, however, brings the symbolism to the level of the individual.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Later, he reiterates and clarifies:
Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
A great work of salvation is going on in our bodies, just as it is in temples. In each, the spiritual and the mortal overlay, a vesica piscis in which birth occurs, created by the bringing into harmony of the mirror with the One (or mortality with the spirit). We spend a great deal of time talking about bringing our bodies in subjection to our spirits, refining our mortal life until it mirrors the spiritual perfection we have outlined for us. When we find that harmony, when the outlines of our spirit and our body each touch the center of the other and are held in balance, Christ can be born within us, and the Atonement makes possible our own rebirth, sanctified.
These bodies have the capacity to be directed by the spirit God has placed within them, a spirit which had its birth with Him, but we also have the capacity to allow unholy activities to occur. Impure thoughts, indulgent practices, shifted focus: all defile our temple like the moneychangers Jesus cleansed from the temple in his day. We are called to cleanse our own temples in like manner, and we are stewards with an accountability for the activities that occur there if we choose not to.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into a herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none.
All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 181).
We rightly interpret these stewardships in light of the Word of Wisdom, clothing modesty, sexual purity, grooming, and the need for education and enlargement of soul. But Paul has also challenged us with something beyond spiritual self-focus. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price and our body is created, as temples are always created, to offer salvation to more than merely a single owner.
Ordinances occur in temples that are designed to bring salvation to others. In ancient temples, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to importune for the benefit of the people he led. Priesthood ordinances in our day provide watershed points for a process of conversion, beginning with our name, extending to baptism, endowing us, and then sealing us. Our identity, our genetic blueprint, is given through priesthood blessing. Our birth into the kingdom is given through baptism. Our gifts are provided, gifts needful to allow us to be one with others, through the endowment. And our sealing provides the blessings necessary to solidify links in the cycle of creation going back to Adam and Eve.
All of these ordinances occur in the temple by proxy, and they could be said to mirror in our bodies as well. In each the pattern unfolds of a blessing before a covenant.